Parler, the social network popular with Trump supporters, is back on track.
The social network was interrupted last week after Amazon launched it from its computer server for not repeatedly deleting violent posts, an allegation Parler denies. But after a week of Parler executives suing Amazon and predicting that their site might never return, they forecast it to be up and running again by the end of the month.
That achievement is partly due to a Russian company.
Parler has done business with DDoS-Guard, a Russian company that routes internet traffic and protects websites from cyber attacks. With its help, visitors to Parler.com now find a basic website with a promise from Parler’s CEO, John Matze, that “our return is inevitable. “.
But the use of a Russian company is alarming some Internet and Russian researchers. If Parler routes its web traffic through DDoS-Guard when its full site is back online, Russian law could allow the Russian government to survey Parler’s users, experts said. .
Alina Polyakova, head of the European Center for Policy Analysis, a foreign policy advisory organization in Washington, said Russia has asked many domestic internet companies to install technology that gives the government copies Most of the data passes through their computer servers.
Russia’s domestic intelligence agency said the surveillance system, known as the System for Investigative Activities, “essentially allows the Russian government to intercept any data on Russian territory and provide That data tells the FSB, ”said Russia’s domestic intelligence agency. over the internet. She added that it was not clear whether DDoS-Guard would be under such surveillance.
The Russian Embassy in Washington and DDoS-Guard did not respond to a request for comment. In an email to CNN, DDoS-Guard said it “does not provide any customer information or any other data to government agencies, except as otherwise expressly provided in the law.”
Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief executive, said in an interview that concerns were overblown because DDoS-Guard only supports a temporary site for Parler. Parler will try to find other companies to run his entire social network, he said.
“Our hobby is having an American company,” he said. “People should not conclude that it will be this company. People extrapolate too much and with limited information. They conclude what they want to conclude. I call it false information spreading. “
But finding a partner ready has been a challenge for Parler since the Capitol riots on Jan. 6.
After Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol, Twitter and Facebook banned Mr. Trump from their services. That brought a huge number of newcomers to Parler, pushing it past 15 million users. Then, Apple and Google removed Parler’s apps from their app stores, and Amazon stopped hosting Parler’s website on its servers because Parler didn’t repeatedly delete violent posts. In addition to denying those claims, Parler also accused the companies of collusion.
Since then, other companies have turned down Parler. Matze said in a court filing on Monday that “at least six extremely large potential suppliers” refused to take over Parler’s business because they fear cyber attacks or believe that Parler organized violent incites.
“Parler is an internet company with no internet access,” Parler’s attorney, David Groesbeck, said in a separate filing on Monday. “And the longer Parler lay dead, the harder it is to recover.”
However, in a statement to the press, Parler executives predict a full return by the end of January. Mr. Wernick declined to say how Parler would do it, but he attributed the confidence to his team’s “great effort”.
“We don’t sleep,” he said. “We are working day and night, and every day. There is no weekend for us ”.
For Parler, the ideal solution would be to go back to Amazon’s servers. The network accused Amazon of violating antitrust laws and asked a federal judge to force it to host Parler. After last week’s hearing, the companies are now awaiting a ruling.
Many online journalists and observers have speculated that Parler will eventually be run by Epik, a company that has supported other sites that tech companies have turned down, including Gab, a social network. Another popular among the right-wing circles.
But Robert Davis, Epik’s senior vice president, said in an interview that Epik only helps with Parler’s domain registration, a fundamental function of the internet. While Epik wanted to help, he said, Parler’s needs were too great.
“I expect Parler to be an amazing force in the future,” he said. “I can see them easily reaching 100 million members or more in just 2021.”
Mr. Davis said he believes Parler is trying to build its own infrastructure. On Monday, Mr. Matze appeared to support that view in an interview on Fox News, saying, “We really need to build our own infrastructure and technology.”
In a legal filing that same day, Matze said Parler did not have the “technical and security expertise to organize the Parler environment on his own,” adding, “It is not possible for Parler to do so either.”
He said the computers and other equipment needed to host Parler’s website would cost more than $ 6 million and take several weeks to arrive. Simply put, Parler itself would not be able to have the necessary servers and associated security infrastructure within a commercially reasonable time frame, he said.
Dave Temkin, an engineer who helped lead Netflix’s internet infrastructure team until last week, said he was skeptical that Parler would return soon, given the difficulty in creating his own infrastructure and the reluctance of other companies to help.
He said that even if Parler built its own data center in the United States, it would need to convince an internet provider like Verizon or AT&T to lay down fiber-optic lines to connect it to the wider internet.
“It’s like you have a car with no roads,” he said.